Vaccine Storage: Choosing the Right One for Your Practice

The success of a vaccine against diseases relies on proper storage and handling. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends storing them in self-contained units that freeze or refrigerate. There are plenty of guidelines to consider when choosing the right vaccine fridge or freezer. Here’s what you should know when purchasing one for your practice.

Biologic-grade refrigerators

Biologic-grade vaccine fridges are the most secure choice for vaccine storage. They are programmed with electronic thermostats, wire shelving which improves circulation, ports for the entry of a temperature probe wire, and interior fans to equalize the temperature. They come in one-door and two-door bulk storage units. The sizes and features depend on what you need for your practice. When you’re purchasing a biologic-grade vaccine fridge, make sure that it has a microprocessor-controlled or digital thermostat.

Your vaccine refrigerator must have the ability to maintain a temperature within +/- 2°C of 5°C despite fluctuating ambient temperatures. Its vaccine storage areas should not exceed the +2°C to +8°C +36°F to 46°F temperature range. It also needs to have a door ajar audible alarm and temperature excursion alarm. Choose a refrigerator that is roomy enough to store your practice’s vaccine stock, which includes flu vaccine that is located at least 4 inches from the unit’s walls.

Biologic-grade freezers

Biologic-grade freezers must have enough space to store vaccines as well as frozen cold packs. They are programmed to have an automatic defrost setting. This ensures that the unit doesn’t have any water, ice, frost, or coolant leaks within it.

Your vaccine freezer should have the ability to store frozen vaccine not warmer than -15°C +5°F and not colder than -50°C -58°F. It should also have enough room to store the year’s largest inventory of Varivax, ProQuad and MMR II. Ensure that your freezer has an automatic defrost or ability to defrost manually.

woman getting vaccinated

Tips for vaccine storage

  • Do not freeze refrigerated vaccines. Frozen vaccines destroy its efficacy.
  • Stand-alone refrigerators should have dedicated storage space for vaccines.
  • Dormitory-style units should not be used under any circumstances. This kind of refrigerator is capable of freezing a vaccine, even if it’s used only for temporary storage.
  • Maintain an accurate and uniform storage temperature of around 2°C to 8°C.
  • Keep a container of water labeled “Do NOT Drink” inside the refrigerator. This will help stabilize the temperature inside the unit. The containers should be placed far away from where the vaccines are stored. Do the same thing for your freezer.
  • Use of commercial foodservice fridges and freezers is also highly discouraged. They look similar to vaccine refrigerators, but they could easily freeze vaccines. 
  • In the event of an emergency, you may use a domestic refrigerator-only unit to safely store vaccines with proper precautions. 
  • Purchase a temperature monitor that has call or text capabilities. These will notify people if the unit has a temperature excursion.
  • Glass doors lose heat faster during a power outage. They rarely last more than 30 minutes. If you need a glass door unit to help with inventory control, make sure that you have a backup generator in case of power fluctuations.

Properly storing and handling vaccines will guarantee its potency. It’s difficult to tell whether a vaccine is frozen or not just by looking at it, so it’s crucial that you take the necessary precautions to make sure that this doesn’t happen. A good vaccine storage unit will help with that.

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